I found Horwitz's dismissal of me frustrating because I've always looked at Steve as one of the good guys that doesn't just dismiss people for disagreeing with him. And he's also someone that's respected what I've had to say in the past and taken me at face value - he was the one that invited me to publish at the Review of Austrian Economics and suggested my paper would be a good fit.
What's most insane about his concerns is that Steve and the BHL crew are a perfect example of the second sort of libertarian that Sachs mentions - he calls them "economic libertarians", but we might call them "consequentialists".
Bob Murphy actually does think the Sachs article zeroes in on libertarianism, noting the exact same points that I have been. He also links to this site. Bob makes an extreme deontological point, linking back to his views on the asteroid. But you don't even have to be that extreme. You could tax to fund asteroid protection and still make Sachs's point. After all - he points out the acceptance of certain government functions by Friedman and Hayek.
Ryan Murphy is worried about essentialism in all this. I'm not sure why. Essentialism is a problem for exactly the reasons that Ryan states, but I don't think that's a persuasive reason to call defining these things "pointless". If it were pointless, then dictionaries wouldn't sell so well. We need words to label and talk about things precisely because things don't have essential essences. It's precisely because one thing bleeds into another that we need words to demarcate boundaries when we talk about abstract ideas. If we end up fighting over the exact edges (is Friedman a libertarian or not?) then I think we've started to get pointless. If we're just trying to get a workable definition of libertarianism so that it doesn't encompass 94% of the Western world, I don't think that's pointless.
And actually I didn't even think we'd be arguing over this. I thought this Sachs article was good and I genuinely didn't think anyone would raise any hackles over it.
But I do wonder if we're ever going to get a reasonable discussion about this sort of thing. Commenter Tel and Bob Murphy's blog drives that point home for me when he writes:
"I don’t like the way Jeffrey Sachs describes it because it falls into the same trap that Statists always use: if you don’t like government taking over education, then you must be opposed to all education; if you don’t like government taking over health care then you must be opposed to all health care; if you don’t like government taking over charity then you must be against all charity… and so it goes."
Granted, using the word "statist" is a tip-off, but if you think Sachs said that, then we have much more fundamental problems here. We're not even talking about the same article and people like Tel clearly have other issues they need to work out on their own.